5 Simple Ways Startups Can Build a Remote Team With Staying Power
Today's post is a guest contribution from PowerToFly, where companies find and hire women in tech and across digital who work from anywhere.
While the benefits of remote work are heavily touted and increasingly supported by more businesses globally, it’s the set-up process that stumps many entrepreneurs. How do you build a remote team, when your primary reference point involves cubicles, closed-door meetings and watercooler politics?
Here are 5 simple ways to set up an effective remote team with staying power:
1. Hire smart: Most people are jazzed about working from home because it can equate more flexibility, freedom and a better work/life balance. But that also translates to more responsibility, commitment and discipline. It’s best to know which types of personalities thrive in a distributed environment and hire accordingly. Zapier, an app automation company, believes that compatible employees often come from startup and freelance worlds. According to a post written on Zapier’s blog, ideal candidates are also action-oriented, prioritize quickly and most importantly, communicate well. “If someone struggles to write clearly and concisely, they'll struggle in a remote team.”
Robert Duffy, the VP of mobile applications and API engineering at Time Inc. agrees that communication is key. He warns that “Fundamental things like poor phone communication can be such a massive blocker to people’s productivity in a distributed team.”
Once viable candidates are found, remote hiring managers often propose test projects or a trial period to ensure a good match. Liz Presson, creator of Working Remote.ly explains, “…Patti Chan and the crew at Indtredia also use the “try before you buy” method. All full-time employees start as contractors who work on a specific project to see what the fit actually feels like.”
2. Establish a communication strategy that fits your style: While remote employees are expected to be more vocal, employers should also step it up. Andrea Goulet, CEO of Corgibytes, a remote software company emphasizes the need for leaders to take charge. “Your team will only communicate as much as you do. If you make communication your priority, your team will follow your example. If you stay quiet and don’t post, your team will feel disconnected.” Andrea’s team communicates through Slack, an instant messaging tool, which she says has “…completely changed the way we do business and is essential for a remote team. It keeps all our conversations out in the open and creates opportunities for team members to connect.”
In addition to instant messaging, it’s crucial to establish a communication schedule —whether it’s weekly Skype meetings, daily phone calls, or occasional strategy sessions. Dee Anna McPherson, VP of Marketing at Hootsuite, says that consistent check-ins not only help with tracking, but also “create a strong rhythm to your business.” Her process includes, “...weekly 1:1s with my direct reports, weekly open office hours, a monthly all-hands meeting, quarterly planning meetings and quarterly business reviews.” Victoria Fine, Director of Strategy and Audience Development at Slate, tells PowerToFly that she approaches each meeting with a strategy. "I believe in regular meetings that are broken into the following: the first ten minutes of a (preferably video meeting) should be about how the person is personally ... The last ten minutes should be to ask if the person needs help from me in any way." Allison Downey, CEO of weeSpring admits that meetings are the last item on her agenda, exclaiming “We don’t do meetings! Or at least, we keep them to an absolute minimum and just use them as strategy sessions.” Decide on the frequency that works best for your company. Most agree that establishing a consistent schedule helps keep communication strong.
3. Let online tools run your life: User-friendly online tools can be lifesavers for managers looking to keep their communication channels clear and remote teams organized. From automatic meeting schedulers like Amy to video chat platforms to project planning apps like Trello, here are 20 awesome remote management tools designed to bring a sense of woosah into each sector of your professional life. Getting acclimated with programs that help organize everything from time to workflow will make it easier to hit the ground running.
4. Think big picture: When crafting your company’s mission statement, think about how each one of your remote workers fits into the company’s larger mission. Make sure that employees understand their role and connection to your company’s current goals so they can do their best work. “According to a Gallup poll in 2013, over 25% of employees said that better performance would come from more clarity on why and what they’re doing. That’s a quarter of your workforce that could be performing better, if they only knew the point,” Liz of Working Remote.ly explains.
To strategize for success, put a system in place that supports checks and balances, while celebrating big wins. This can include finding creative ways to thank your employees for a job well done (e.g., a surprise cupcake delivery), to setting up constructive employee evaluations and management feedback, in a way that supports growth.
5. Make culture a priority, not an afterthought: Culture is the glue that holds great distributed teams together. It fills workers with a sense of pride and purpose, while connecting them to their coworkers.
Establishing a remote work culture involves delving deep into the focus of your brand and figuring out how translate those convictions into organic team building experiences. For example, if the company mission supports working parents, like PowerToFly does, culture can be built around supporting work/life balance. This could include having walking meetings, child friendly company retreats, or hosting virtual video lunches.
No matter what type of cultural activities you choose, it’s always important to remember that your employees are people first. “Remote management is at its worst when people treat their workers like machines … when they never hear their voices or know who their families or aspirations are. You have to have the whole person in your head when you manage them remotely,” adds Victoria of Slate.
Now that you see how simple it is to build a remote team, it’s time to get started! PowerToFly’s global talent bank is filled with the top female talent in the tech field. We’re ready to meet your staffing needs.